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June 17, 2009

Health Disparities Across the LifespanWhere Are the Children?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Cheng); Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Howard University, Washington, DC (Dr Jenkins); and DC Baltimore Research Center on Child Health Disparities, Washington, DC (Drs Cheng and Jenkins). Dr Cheng is past president of the Academic Pediatric Association and Dr Jenkins is past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

JAMA. 2009;301(23):2491-2492. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.848

A 2003 publication by the Institute of Medicine raised awareness regarding persistent disparities in health care in the United States.1 However, of the 103 studies reviewed in the report, only 5 focused on disparities for children. Based on the expectation of a significantly more diverse child population by 2020,2 and the large number of children living in poverty, greater attention is needed on vulnerable children and their potential for a healthy and productive adulthood. Much research has documented persistent or increasing child health disparities by population, disease, risk factors, and geography, but there is a paucity of research on successful interventions. Life-course research demonstrates the power of early childhood health and experiences influencing adult health such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and mental health.3 To eliminate health disparities, greater attention is needed for research and intervention within a life-course perspective,3,4 with collaboration horizontally across the age span for obstetrics, pediatrics, and adult medicine, and vertically across multiple disciplines and perspectives.

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